Save the Olympics?

I got this in my inbox this morning from Avaaz.org (My comments are in RED BOLD).

For those of you new to the blog or who do not know me personally, I worked at Avaaz for 1 year during its initial start-up phase. I’m now at Human Rights Watch, working with their China team on their China Olympics campaign, among other things. My commentary is solely my own as a concerned and engaged citizen blogger and activist and does not reflect the opinion of Human Rights Watch. I am doing this for the sake of open debate and dialogue about China, the Olympics and human rights.

Dear Friends,

The Beijing Olympics are a crucial chance to persuade China’s leaders to support dialogue and human rights in Tibet, as well as Burma and Darfur, and we need to seize it.

Dialogue alone is not enough, Tibetans, Burmese, Darfurians, Chinese and everybody else need concrete actions that result in better human rights. It’s also time to China to work on human rights in China as well. Learn more about the human rights issues surrounding the Olympics on Human Rights Watch’s China Olympics page.

Also, don’t forget the issue of Taiwan and the rise of rampant nationalism in China. I hope a Taiwanese athlete wins a medal. As in previous Olympic games, China has pressured the international community into forcing Taiwanese athletes to compete under the name “Chinese Taipei.” The Taiwanese (Republic of China) flag and national anthem are banned at the Olympics. When an athlete wins a medal, s/he gets to stand with the other medalists while their national flags are displayed and national anthems are played, but if and when a Taiwanese athlete wins a medal, s/he will stand without the Taiwanese flag and in silence. I’m not one for flag waving and national(ist) anthems, but I have to admit, the silent symbolism will sure be poignant.

China wants the Olympics to be a coming out party for a newly modern, powerful, and respectable nation. But the Olympics are about humanity and excellence–we can’t celebrate them in good conscience while ignoring the suffering of Tibetans and others. The Olympics are also about perpetuating nationalist propaganda and corporate sponsors making millions of dollars (or Euros or Yuan since the US dollar is becoming increasingly worthless).

So Avaaz is launching a major new campaign: SAVE THE OLYMPICS. We’ll ask China to save the Olympics for all of us (and more importantly for the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda team and for the shareholders of the corporate sponsors), by making specific, reasonable progress in dialogue with the Dalai Lama, securing release of Burmese and Tibetan political prisoners, and supporting peacekeeping in Darfur.

Ok, so even if the Chinese government does talk to the Dalai Lama, what will they say, what are the asks? Talking for the sake of talking is a start, but there has to be an agenda and a concrete roadmap for improving the human rights of Tibetans.

Our appeal will be placed on billboards and ads in major Olympic cities, in Chinese overseas publications, and we’ll hire a Chinese language team to engage directly on China’s lively blogs and in chatrooms. Sounds like a great idea, I hope they can pull this one off, especially the billboards and ads. Do the major Olympic cities in Beijing? Probably not, since I don’t think the Chinese government would allow that to happen. That’s pretty indicative of the lack of freedom of speech in China, isn’t it? We need 10,000 donations from people from 100 countries to kickstart the campaign this week with a truly global sponsorship–click below to see the ads and donate whatever you can, however small:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/save_the_olympics/1.php?cl=77024255

Within China, where the Olympics were once seen as a victory for greater openness and internationalism, the internal debate has taken a bitter turn. Most Chinese are now growing angry over Olympic activism, seeing it as biased and “anti-Chinese.” Most Chinese also live on a highly controlled media diet, which along with a fiercely nationalistic education system, indoctrinates them to think that attacks against the Chinese Communist Party and government (which are one and the same) are attacks against “China” or the Chinese people.

If the games are a fiasco, China’s repressive hardliners will win the day–and we could see the worst crackdown yet.

We need to stop this, and fast. So our campaign aims to reach out to China and Chinese people to show that we’re not anti-China but pro-humanitarian, and that our desire is to save the 2008 Olympics, not ruin them. Click below to donate now: China, Chinese People, and the Chinese Communist Party are three very different things. One can be pro-human rights, anti-Chinese Communist Party, but still be pro-Chinese people.

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/save_the_olympics/1.php?cl=77024255

The Slogan of the 2008 Olympics is “One World, One Dream”. Let’s reach across barriers of perception and division, and ask the Chinese to make this dream come true for us this summer.

Does the implied “we” in “let’s reach across barriers of perception and division” include the Chinese government and state-controlled press? The Chinese government can help “reach across barriers of perception and division” by going easy on the jingoist national propaganda, letting journalists report unhindered in China, and by bringing down the “Great Firewall of China,” which prevents netizens in China from accessing fair and balanced news and other information about their own country and the world.

With hope,

Ricken, Ben, Graziela, Galit, Pascal, Iain, Milena, Sabrina and the whole Avaaz Team.

PS – If you are new to Avaaz, we are a new global campaigning organization launched in January 2007 that has rapidly grown to over 3 million members in every nation on earth. The Economist magazine has written of the power of Avaaz to “Give world leaders a deafening wake up call”, and we have been featured on the BBC talkshow HARDtalk. David Miliband, the UK foreign secretary, calls Avaaz “the best of the new in foreign policy”. You can see the results of our last campaign fundraiser, on Burma here, and the results of our last campaign on climate change here, as well as other campaign results here. Avaaz Foundation is a legally registered non-profit organization.

ABOUT AVAAZ
Avaaz.org is an independent, not-for-profit global campaigning organization that works to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people inform global decision-making. (Avaaz means “voice” in many languages.) Avaaz receives no money from governments or corporations, and is staffed by a global team based in London, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Paris, Washington DC, and Geneva.

Don’t forget to check out our Facebook and Myspace pages!

More on Tibet – Latest from Avaaz.org

Protesters hold a demonstration urging US President George W. Bush to cancel his plans to attend the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing because of the situation in Tibet during a protest at Lafayette Park across the street from the White House in Washington, DC, on March 31, 2008. (c) 2008 SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

The latest from Avaaz.org on Tibet:

Dear friends,

On Monday, thousands of people in 84 cities worldwide marched for justice for Tibet–and delivered the 1.5 million-signature Avaaz petition to Chinese embassies and consulates around the globe. Avaaz staff have engaged with Chinese diplomats in New York and London, delivering the petition and urging action. And a growing chorus of world leaders is joining the call. Continue reading More on Tibet – Latest from Avaaz.org

Blogging Freedom and Human Rights in Egypt

Support freedom of speech online! Find out more and take action:

CitizenReporter.org with BicycleMark: The Case of Jailed Blogger Monem (Podcast)

ZapBoom The Sound That Change Makes: Mary’s blog post about Free Monem Campaign

Reporters sans frontières petition:

“We call for the release of Abdel Kareem Nabil Suleiman (Kareem Amer) and of Abdul-Moneim Mahmud, who have been imprisoned for expressing their opinion online. We urge the organisers of the Internet Governance Forum to intervene with the Egyptian authorities on behalf of these two bloggers. It would be intolerable for a UN summit on the future of the Internet to be held in a country which imprisons bloggers”.

Free Monem Campaign Site

Free Kareem!